Review: That’s A Question!
September 29, 2017 /
Designer: Vlaada Chvátil
Artist: Sören Meding
Publisher: Czech Games Edition
Category: Animals, Party Game
Price: $22.98 Amazon
That’s a Question! is a party game from designer Vlaada Chvátil and Czech Games Edition (CGE). Chvátil is a well-known board game designer who has published many games through CGE. The two together have a history of sometimes extremely complex games, coupled with clever jokes throughout the rulebook. Vlaada Chvátil has designed Codenames, Galaxy Trucker, Dungeon Petz, Dungeon Lords, Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization, and many more.
CGE is a board game publisher, originally founded in 2007. CGE has since published over 40 games and expansions, including Adrenaline, Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar, Alchemists, Space Alert, Codenames, and more.
The party games’ genre has been crowded for a long time.
Most my age have either fond or unkind memories of many rounds of Apples to Apples, or—gasp—Cards Against Humanity. This genre typically places players into activities where they must desperately try to influence the main player with scripted jokes, in hopes their card is selected from the group. It’s games like these that turned me off to board games for a long, long time. Uninventive mechanics. Boring end game that no one cares about. Initially hilarious jokes that quickly grow stale. Humor and jollity derived from printed cards—never from the minds of your friends at the table.
This is a review for That’s a Question! and if I’m to be an honest critic, this does share some of those same issues. Bear in mind, my criteria for a good game is different from yours, and of course, you might like the simplicity of Apples to Apples, or you might enjoy the bottom shelf humor of Cards Against Humanity; after all, you aren’t the one who made the joke, it was the card!
After my own personal cardboard renaissance in 2013, one of the things about excellent, modern party games that still excites me to this day is giving players the onus for generating the direction of a game, and letting the game…well, facilitate the atmosphere. This is why I cried joyful tears making inside jokes while playing The Game of Things with my family. It’s why developing clues in Codenames makes it possibly the best party game of the last decade (maybe of all time). It’s why in SiXes, no one cares who wins because putting your awkward answer out there is all the fun.
Like those games, That’s a Question! shares the unwritten mechanism of personal responsibility for the direction of a game. One might boil this down to a simple statement like, “Oh, it’s a good game if you have the right group of people to play with.” This is true, but can be said of all games. What makes That’s a Question! unique is despite scripted responses on cards, the chosen player must still choose between two juicy options. The journey between playing the cards and waiting patiently for the answerer to respond is all the fun.
Oh, but how the game works is critical to understanding what I’m getting at.
In That’s a Question! players are squirrels, all trying to climb to the top of a mountain. Each player is fitted with an acorn or a hazelnut. The lone player who lacks one of those nuts takes another player’s nut, throws a three-sided tableau at the player, and chooses two of their hex-shaped cards. The chosen player must choose one of the two cards, whilst the rest of the table attempts to guess which of the two the chosen player has decided on. All guessing tokens are revealed, and players who guessed correctly move closer to the top of the mountain. The asker moves up the mountain for each incorrect guess.
The three-sided tableau asks one of three extremely defined questions:
Which would you miss more if it ceased to exist?
Which of these would you choose?
Whom do you consider worse?
Difficult prompts indeed, and to complicate things, players have handfuls of cards to use to formulate questions. One becomes confronted with horrible questions like, “Would you miss having soft toilet paper, or daylight?” Or questions on one’s views of individualized morality like, “Who is worse: someone who honks in stopped traffic, or someone who’s been cheating in board games against you for the last year?”
As the answerer, once faced with the two possibilities, one’s legerity might draw them to their own personally correct answer rather quickly. Other times, it might take a minute to carefully consider your options. Discussing your decision is forbidden, and only once others around the table reveal their face-down guessing tokens can you relay your decision-making to the group. Yes, this makes for shouts of exclamation and riotous laughter. No, I still can’t convince my friends why I chose to keep snow instead of soft toilet paper. No, I still agonize over the idea of losing coffee over craft beer. Yes, I still struggle with the moral dilemma of who I think is categorically worse than another person. It’s not until you’ve revealed your answer that those around you suddenly become wide-eyed, and the game continues to come alive.
The rulebook is full of cheeky squirrel humor, and even admits the end-game doesn’t matter much. There are some other mechanics, like players can bluff with a bonus tile that might grant them an extra three spaces of movement if they guess correctly, or extra moves for everyone who guessed wrong. Players even get these tokens back when their squirrel takes a bath in the lake, or plays with the sheep in the meadow. The rulebook leads me to believe the rules around movement are so asinine and unnecessary that we’ve created rules just to add to the nonsense. My favorite is the drowning squirrel rule, where if a player’s squirrel doesn’t move from the lake three turns in a row, it drowns and has to start from the beginning again.
I’m hard and fast in terms of keeping games played as intended, but party games get a pass. I’m not playing party games competitively, and if I am, I’m doing it wrong. That’s a Question! even says to designate one player as the “scorekeeper” but we call that player the “squirrel pusher.” “Never should the question be asked ‘have you pushed my squirrel yet?’,” says the rulebook.
That’s a Question does not have the most exciting end-game, like Codenames. It doesn’t have players write down their own answers, like The Game of Things (though it would be interesting to try this out). It even gives players a random hand of cards, like Apples to Apples.
What makes That’s a Question! exciting and horrific altogether is the reality that you cannot run from the question you’re being asked. Like a demented game of Would You Rather?, you’ve been chained to your chair and must answer the question before you. You must dive deep into your consciousness and determine how you feel about two given options. Sure, you might rush it, or you might choose something that you later renege, but that’s the fun of it. It’s just as fun, if not even more fun for those sitting next to you, trying to figure out which option you will choose. There is basically no down time in That’s a Question! and that’s a lovely and attractive reason for playing.
That’s a Question! is probably overproduced. Players hold an acorn or a hazelnut for no reason other than making sure the same person can’t be asked over and over again. This promotes unity and asking lots of people questions instead of just the most interesting human at the table. Why acorns or hazelnuts? I don’t know, but I prefer the hazelnuts. Cards are thin, but they fit nicely as they match up next to the tableau. Players move cute and vibrant squirrel meeples (squeemeeples?) up the mountain. I guess you could move onto the clouds if you really wanted to and if you really guessed that well.
One concern I have is the replayability. Like Cards Against Humanity and others, seeing the same options might grow stale. In fact, in our second game, we already had some repeat cards from the first game. There are a lot of options to choose from and each card has a response for each question, but I wonder if this might grow old with time. Earlier I suggested players being able to write down their two options for the answerer. It might force the game into a weird place where players are always comparing the same player’s chosen preference/hobby/morality to another preference/hobby/morality. Furthermore, I think the game thrives on the off-the-wall opportunities the card provide, so maybe ten plays in will tell the full story. At just under $23, I don’t think it’s a huge investment to give it a try.
Overall, this is a fun one, and continues to explore the party game genre in a silly way. How else would you have it?
A review copy of That’s a Question! was provided by CGE.
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